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The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) needs to be strengthened in the light of the situation in Afghanistan

Monday, September 26, 2011 - 16:05

The influence of the Afghan problem on the countries of Central Asia
ISAF troops under the NATO leadership are carrying out active combat operations in southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan. As a result of these military operations Taliban and their allies are leaving those areas moving its basic activity in northern and western parts of the country considered until recently relatively stable. Being pushed away from the south of Afghanistan to the borders of Central Asian Taliban forces and their allies are the main threat to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. In addition, it is known that the US is going to begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in June 2011. The power in the country will be transferred to government security forces. In Afghanistan, will remain only a limited contingent of NATO military forces.
Basically the scenario of two decades ago is being repeated when Soviet troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989. The official government regime of Mohammed Najibullah seemed to be quite stable at that time. However it managed to stand only three years and fell under the mujahidin attacks.
Currently ISAF led by Americans also expresses confidence that the government of President Hamid Karzai will be able to keep the situation under control. It has officially informed that as of April 20, 2011 the number of Afghan National Army has reached 164 thousand people, and the police 120 thousand people. By 2014, the total number of security forces, which include the army and police, should reach 305 thousand people. ISAF also said that while in 2008 the Afghan army enlisted an average of 800 people monthly, now it is about 6 thousand people. Judging from these numbers it is clear that at this point the total number of Afghan security forces is about 284 thousand people and in three years this number will increase by 21 thousand, but at the same time number of coalition troops will significantly decrease. So the question is - in case the current number of anti-Taliban forces can not keep things under control, then how one can expect stability when most of the NATO contingent is being withdrawn?
Thus it becomes clear that the ISAF command is trying to replace its own contingent with the local troops. Nor does it say about the qualitative differences between its contingent and such groups. Both Afghan wars have shown that the Afghan army frequently suffers massive desertion, and it is also not uncommon for its entire units to move to the Taliban with all available weapons. While participating in the program of reconciliation, former mujahidin groups that took the government side, facing the danger of elimination, often go to the side of the former comrades. There have been too many of such precedents to have serious concerns that the Taliban once again will be able to take power into their own hands after the departure of most of the US contingent forces. These concerns come mainly from the fact that the main source of anti-government forces support, drug production, has not been destroyed and public discontent over extreme corruption among government officials. Moreover, according to the UN, during the period from the date of entry of coalition forces in the country up to this day the volume of poppy cultivation, and as a result, exports of various types of narcotics have increased by 40 times! According to Viktor Ivanov the director of the Federal Service for Drug Control of Russia: “the 93% concentration of the acreage of opium poppy in Afghanistan is directly connected with the growing number of foreign armed forces in this region. From the moment the US and NATO forces entered Afghanistan drug production has increased by more than 40 times.”
It is almost certain that the threat from Afghanistan to Central Asian countries will further increase in next 2, 3 years. Before the beginning of operation by coalition forces in 2001, the Central Asian countries were protected from the Taliban by Northern Alliance forces led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. His assassination resulting in forming of a new government mixed together supporters and opponents of the Taliban. Today in northern Afghanistan there is no such stronghold of its most ardent foes of the Taliban, which had existed previously. Withdrawal of coalition troops (there will be only a limited contingent) from this country might well result in the increasing of destabilization in the Afghanistan, and as a consequence, the growing influence of the various religious and extremist organizations.
Withdrawal of coalition forces contingent from Iraq led to the strengthening of Kurdish separatists in the north, who as well as the Afghan mujahedeen are actively engaged in drug and arms trafficking to Turkey. As a result the Turkish territory issues associated with the strengthening of separatist tendencies has become more complicated. A similar version of the events is quite possible in relation to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) needs to be strengthened.
Actualization of the Afghanistan threat makes it necessary to strengthen the role of the CSTO. All CSTO countries are interested in secular governments keeping the situation in Central Asia under control. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which are directly adjacent to the IRA, relay more on their own security forces than on joint operations with allies. The number of the Uzbek army, according to most analysts, is more than 70 thousand people and Turkmen army is 50 thousand while the internal security forces, police, intelligence and other law enforcement agencies in these countries are numerous. That is what makes them skeptical about the idea of collective defense. Uzbekistan frequently torpedoes development of military cooperation within the CSTO, and Turkmenistan adheres to the policy of neutrality and does not participate in any of the military-political blocs.
However, the militarily weakest countries are Tajikistan (also adjacent to the Afgahnistan), and Kyrgyzstan. Despite the significant numbers of internal security forces, their armies are much weaker than the Uzbek and Turkmen ones. Thus, Dushanbe has at the disposal around 12 thousand troops, while Bishkek has only 5-6 thousand. Therefore, because of the weak defense capacity, these countries are most actively engaged in the efforts to establish an effective system of collective defense.
In 2009 and 2010 due to the growing threat from Afghanistan and instability in Kyrgyzstan were created KSOR (Collective Rapid Reaction Force) and Peacekeeping Force. As you can see, the CSTO becomes effective only in a situation of increasing overall threat. However, such reaction arrives late in the day considering the well known fact that the Taliban seriously increased their influence in 2005. In 2007-2008 they already held large-scale operations against ISAF forces like "spring attack". However CSTO undertook nothing to revitalize the collective self-defense forces. There is nothing to remember apart from anti-drug campaigns "Channel" and "Channel-South," and organized anti-terrorist exercises. In addition the amount of seized drugs is not that large, and the exercise did not lead to qualitative strengthening of CIS borders. CSIS CAR (Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Central Asian region, established in 2001) also did not show itself as a cohesive and capable component of the CSTO. And the main snag here is the lack of cohesion between the CSTO member states. Each of them is influences by their own interests which seriously impedes the development of the entire organization.
Thus we can say with certainty that in the face of increasing real but not mythical threat the CSTO should intensify its work towards strengthening the combat potential. Perhaps to use the integrated units of the CSTO in combat operations not only at the borders but also in conflicts within the countries as well like operations in the Rasht Valley in Tajikistan in 2010, confrontation in South Ossetia in 2008 and the Batken events of 1999-2000. Despite the fact that KSOR forces have a status of 'operational' deployment, currently they do not represent a cohesive force, which would have been stationed in one place and would obey a single command. In the event of armed conflict on the borders of the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Force powers will send to combat units which first arrive at the scene. In this case, the main issue will be not so much a financial or material and technical basis but participation of all countries in collective defense. The statement made by Belarus during ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 that it would not send a single soldier in Central Asia, once again proves that in case of real confrontation or military intervention against one of the CSTO member states, other states can easily violate the agreement and will not provide the necessary help. Conflict in South Ossetia is another example, when Russia's allies provided only diplomatic and moral support. The Karabakh conflict has indicated that under the threat of unleashing a new war, Russia is the only one actively supports Armenia as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
In this situation strengthen the CSTO as a guarantor of stability in the region is clearly the only option. At the same time the emphasis should be primarily on preventive actions so the organization would become proactive and be able to respond quickly to new security threats rather then just handling the consequences.

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